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What is the Velveteen Rabbit?

The Velveteen Rabbit has been a cherished story for children since 1922.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2014
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The Velveteen Rabbit is a children's story book about a toy who comes to life. First published in 1922, The Velveteen Rabbit proved to be a big hit, and it continues to be in print today, with most bookstores boasting a copy in their children's sections. Some English-speakers have fond memories of reading the book as a child, and it is sometimes given as a gift to new parents. Several film adaptations of the story have been made, along with recorded and dramatized versions.

The story was written by Margery Williams, who was supposedly inspired by a beloved toy of her own, and the original edition was illustrated by William Nicholson. In the story, a stuffed rabbit is given to a young boy as a present. The rabbit interacts with other, fancier toys owned by the child, and develops a desire to become “Real” which is enhanced by an interaction with actual, living rabbits.

Another toy, the Skin Horse, explains the nature of being “real” to the rabbit, telling him that you become real through the love and beliefs of others. Over the course of the story, the rabbit becomes progressively more and more shabby and run-down, and eventually the boy develops scarlet fever, and the stuffed toy is slated for destruction, along with other objects from the nursery. Learning of his fate, the rabbit cries, and a fairy appears, turning him into a genuine rabbit so that he will be “Real to everyone.”

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At the close of the story, readers are left with a scene of the boy seeing the rabbit, and saying that he looks remarkably like his lost toy. The theme of this imaginative story has to do with love, and being shaped by love, with the rabbit slowly developing into a “real” creature through the love of the boy and the workings of magic. Many readers fell in love with The Velveteen Rabbit when the story was released in the 1920s, and the simple story quickly became a perennial classic.

A selection from The Velveteen Rabbit is sometimes included in weddings. Literary readings are very popular with many brides and grooms, and people with a sentimental connection to The Velveteen Rabbit may delight in being able to incorporate the book into their wedding vows. The section of the book which is most commonly used is the discussion between the rabbit and the Skin Horse, in which the horse talks about becoming real and being shaped by the love of others, and the horse points out that when “you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”

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